America’s children still on a sugar high

Added sugars, which bring extra sweetness to processed foods, add calories without providing nutrients. “But this sweetness comes at a cost,” says Sumana Narasimhan, MD pediatric endocrinologist and director of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight™ program at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Consuming too many sugary foods can harm kids’ waistlines and hearts.”

To get your kids on the right track, reduce their desire for sugar while offering healthy alternatives. Try these tips.

Out of sight, out of mind. Arrange your kitchen to encourage healthy snacking. Put cookies and other goodies on high shelves. “Set fruit and other nutritious options on countertops and low refrigerator shelves, within easy reach,” Dr. Narasimhan suggests.

Add fruit. Nature’s candy offers plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Sweet choices kids may love: raisins, fruit – fresh or canned in natural juices, frozen bananas or fruit kebabs. “Keep things fresh,” Dr. Narasimhan says. “Different varieties and presentations keep kids interested.”

Spice it up. Allspice, cardamom and nutmeg add sweetness without sugar. Try serving them with oatmeal, rice or sliced fruit.

Steer clear of juice. Even 100 percent fruit juice has empty sugar calories that only increase unhealthy weight gain. Choose low-fat milk instead. Also, avoid fruit snacks. “Parents may think they count as a serving of fruit, but they should be considered equivalent to candy,” Dr. Narasimhan says.

Look for sugary code words. You might not see sugar on the food label. Sometimes it masquerades as dextrose, corn syrup, sucrose, corn sweetener or malt syrup. Choose foods that do not have a sugar listed as one of the first few ingredients.

Start a healthy food relationship. Do not promise dessert as a reward. “This teaches kids that broccoli is less valuable than ice cream sundaes,” Dr. Narasimhan says. “But at the same time, forbidding treats makes them more desirable. Set a healthy example of moderate portions instead.”

Sumana Narasimhan

Sumana Narasimhan, MD
Pediatric Endocrinologist and
Director, Healthy Kids,Healthy Weight
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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